The PS5 is now more than three years old, and if you’re just now jumping onboard this generation of consoles then you’ve got plenty of catching up to do. The list of the best PS5 games is growing longer by the month, and there are more than 600 games released for Sony’s latest PlayStation console to date. And that’s before accounting for the best PS4 games being playable thanks to PS5’s backwards compatibility features.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to receive a PS5 this holiday season — either as a gift from a loved one or just as a well-deserved present to yourself — then you're probably trying to decide which PS5 games to play first. That’s where we can help. Below you’ll find a handpicked list of the five essential games you should play first on your new PS5. These games aren't just excellent in their own right, but each one acts as a showcase for the console making them the ideal starting point for any newcomers to gaming on PS5.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
Sony’s flagship PS5 exclusive for 2023, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is everything you could want from a sequel. It smartly builds upon the foundations of its excellent PS4 predecessor while retaining everything that players loved about Insomniac's first spidey adventure. This time you play as two Spider-Men — Peter Parker and Miles Morales — as the pair face off against a large collection of fearsome villains including Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio and Venom.
To defeat the many threats to the expanded New York City map you’ll need to master new abilities and take full advantage of Peter’s powerful symbiote suit. However, the game’s cinematic story is the real show-stealer, whisking you through an impressive collection of tightly crafted set pieces. If you’ve yet to experience this version of the popular superhero, be sure to start with Spider-Man Remastered on PS5 before diving into this sequel.
Read our full Marvel's Spider-Man 2 review.
Demon’s Souls was the real standout in the PS5’s launch lineup back in 2020, and it remains one of the console’s very best games even several years later. A visually stunning remake of the PS3 original, Demon’s Souls is the progenitor of the acclaimed Dark Souls franchise, and much like the games that would follow, Demon’s Souls is a tough-as-nails action RPG that will make you work hard for even the most minor victories.
The cursed land of Boletaria is an extremely unforgiving place, but each hard-fought victory will live long in the memory and the sense of satisfaction that comes with defeating a boss that killed you dozens of times before makes all that effort worthwhile. Demon’s Souls' high level of difficulty will make it a skip for some players, but if you’re willing to commit the time to mastering its many intricacies, then you’ll find few experiences as rewarding in the whole PS5 library.
Read our full Demon's Souls review.
Speaking of challenging games, Returnal is another PS5 title that asks a lot of its players. This PS5 console exclusive combines the highly replayable structure of a rogue-lite with adrenaline-pumping bullet-hell gameplay with a sprinkling of sci-fi mystery thrown in for good measure. You play an astronaut who crashes lands on a mysterious planet and finds themselves stuck in a time loop. Every time you die on the hostile alien planet of Atropos, you’ll reawaken at the wreckage of your spaceship, and must once again venture out into the unknown to unravel the mysteries of who you are and why you are cursed to endlessly repeat this cycle.
Returnal’s ambitious story will alienate some players, but its fast-paced gameplay will keep you hooked through dozens upon dozens of runs. Returnal also offers the best implementation of the DualSense controller to date with the adaptive triggers being used to control your weapon’s fire mode and haptic feedback being used to simulate effects like rainfall.
Read our full Returnal review.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
If you’re looking for a PS5 game that is a little more forgiving than the previous two recommendations, then look no further than Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. This delightfully quirky sci-fi romp sees you play as the iconic PlayStation mascots as they embark on their biggest intergalactic adventure ever. Taking advantage of the PS5’s speedy internal SSD, Rift Apart lets you hop between gorgeous levels in seconds as you’re flung through dimensional rifts.
While the stunning Pixar-quality graphics and pleasantly comedic tone are strong selling points, it’s the charming characters and creative weaponry that the Ratchet & Clank series is known for that truly make this a PS5 must-play. Plus, there’s also a host of new faces to meet including a new playable Lombax named Rivet, who is just as lovable as the eponymous pair. If you’re after a PS5 game that combines blockbuster thrills with a compelling story, then Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is just what you’ve been searching for.
Read our full Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review.
Gran Turismo 7
Gran Turismo 7 is the ideal showcase of the PS5’s raw graphical power. This racing simulator is one of the best-looking console games ever made. Don’t be surprised if your friends and family mistake its photorealistic visuals for genuine racing footage. Fortunately, Gran Turismo 7 isn’t just eye candy, it’s also a finely-tuned racing game that will delight petrolheads with its wealth of licensed cars and tracks as well as its deep customization options.
It lacks the fun factor of something like Forza Horizon 5, but if you want a game that accurately simulates that sport of motor racing you pretty much cannot beat the level of authenticity offered by Gran Turismo 7. Plus, if you have access to a PSVR 2 headset you can take your immersion up a level as the entire game can be played in VR.
Read our full Gran Turismo 7 review.
Do I need a PlayStation Plus membership?
If you want to play online multiplayer on your PS5 console, then you'll need a PlayStation Plus membership. There are multiple tiers of membership, but at the basic level, PlayStation Plus Essential, you'll pay $10 per month (or $60 per year) and get access to online play, cloud saves, exclusive PlayStation Store discounts and a rotating selection of monthly games.
Upgrade to the Extra ($15 per month, $100 per year) or Premium ($18 per month, $120 per year) tiers and you get all the above, alongside a large catalog of more than 400 PS4 and PS5 games. Premium also packs additional classic games from the PS1, PS2, PS3 and PSP systems. These memberships are a great way to get instant access to hundreds of PlayStation games for a single monthly cost. The PlayStation Plus catalog even includes Demon's Souls, Returnal and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
If you require an extensive breakdown of the differences between the three tiers be sure to check out our full PlayStation Plus Essential vs. Extra vs. Preminium guide.
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Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.